In a somewhat ironic move, it seems that Occupy Wall Street is looking to take itself (semi) seriously. John Paul Thorton, a data analyst of Decatur, Alabama, has filed with the Federal Elections Commission for an Occupy Wall Street Super PAC. This might seem amusing at first, possibly even contradictory, but it is an understandable part of political life.
The problem with democracy is that the people decide things. Granted, like most other forms of government, its vice is also its great virtue. A king is not always fun to have, but we would all agree that a good and talented king could accomplish a great deal more than a given president in the United States. This is the reasoning behind men like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson: If we expand federal powers, hire experts, and remove so-called "obstacles" to democracy, then the government will become much more efficient in exercising the will of the people.
At the same, this amplified a lot of existing problems inherent to democracy. To be precise: We need to convince a lot of people, a lot of the time, and about a lot of different things. To do that well, you need a lot of monetary muscle. That is why people feel comfortable using phrases like "buy a couple of primaries". Money allows you to reach more of the population and deliver your message without sufficient rebuttal. In a democracy, a series of debates will not make up for the fact that people are getting a feed from one candidate more often than they are another; repeat something enough times, and people start believing it.
So now, Occupy Wall Street has to confront an important truth of our democracy: no money, no future. Since the Citizens United decision allowed for unrestricted political contributions from organizations and corporations, the vice of extensive democracy has been magnified. The ability to influence popular belief has always been important, but now we are seeing a new level of dissemination which is only possible with significant financial power. OWS cannot survive through amateur protest and iPhone recordings – they need to work within the system. Indeed, unlike what some such protestors may believe, the U.S. is not Egypt, and having a Facebook group is insufficient.
While it ultimately smacks of irony, then, the efforts of Mr. Thorton are perfectly legitimate. Occupy Wall Street has every right and every duty to propel their candidates into public office – that is how Americans go about bringing change.
As Stanley Crouch put it, the “nature of our democracy allows us to remove the blues of government by using the government.” This movement, while often radical and imprecise, will hopefully be taking a step towards political maturation.
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